How To Easily Remove Paint & Varnish From Old Furniture!

6 Materials
5 Hours
Hi, I'm Brittany! I am passionate about sharing time saving projects around the house for other busy families.

Today I want to show you how I removed this black wax, red latex paint, and 40+ years of varnish from this buffet rather easily.

Goal: Remove any varnish and paint from this buffet so that I could stain the top and paint the remaining buffet.

You can see the full tutorial here
Remove all old hardware, including door hinges.
To save yourself lots of effort and time, spend about 10 minutes and sand over your entire piece with coarse sand paper.
Make sure to sand in direction of the wood. What you’re doing is prepping the remover to do an even better job than its advertised. I’ve found that a bit of effort goes a long way when you have furniture with wax or special finishing on it (like mine!).

While this process is easier and safer than more traditional methods, it will still take some time. You have to wait in between remover coats and then there is some physical labor involved. Easy yes, but prepare to spend a bit of time on it depending on the size of your piece.
Paint a very thick coat of the (affiliate) Citristrip on your wood surface. Be very liberal in your application. Don’t worry about using too much. I’m so frugal when it comes to paint supplies and it took me a minute to ‘let it go.’ But it was kinda fun. 
Make sure to get into every nook and crannies on your piece. The paint won’t remove unless there has been product directly applied to it. Since it’s so thick, I ‘painted’ the remover on the legs and sides and it didn’t budge too much.
After about 2 hours of letting the Citristrip lying on top of the wood, begin removing the paint. Start off easy and use plastic putty knives.
You can see how the paint and varnish came right off. I thought it was pretty cool. The wood is still wet underneath and will be for at least 12 hours after you’ve finished removing the paint.
Use clean cloths to wipe up paint and residue as you go. Otherwise you’ll end up with paint pieces all over the floor and you don’t want to be stepping in them.
Use wire brushes to go over any nooks and crannies. Because I had so much wax on some surfaces, I needed to use additional paint remover.

Finally, your furniture looks almost too perfect to paint over.   I even told my husband, “Wow, who knew ours would look so good?”
Using your cloths, wipe down your item. Then, using an orbit sander, sand over the entire piece using a fine grit sand paper.
Be sure to be firm while sanding and still going in the moving in the general direction of the wood.
And here it is ready to be finished for the next project!

See the final [painted] project over on my blog!

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Suggested materials:
  • Citristrip
  • Coarse Sand Paper & Fine Sand Paper
  • Wire Brushes
See all materials
Brittany | Our Home Made Easy
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 25 questions
  • Kelly Maxwell Kelly Maxwell on Nov 13, 2018

    Non related question. How do I paint an old metal trunk?

  • Mary Smith Mary Smith on Feb 24, 2019

    How did you get into all the insides? I have a smaller piece that looks impossible to strip inside.

  • NQ. NQ. on Apr 01, 2019

    Can a project like this, be done in outside

    weather like in south Florida? Under roof

    away from sun. Thank you

Join the conversation
2 of 61 comments
  • Melin Melin on Dec 02, 2018

    I've used this Citristrip brand paint remover and it is awesome ~ best brand out there; less messy, easy to apply and no unpleasant odor!

  • Lowcntrygal Lowcntrygal on Mar 23, 2019

    I'm not sure I'd use an orbital sander considering it's not my favorite for sticking with the grain, but if you'll be painting over things I suppose you could cover up the sander's light marring.